February 2012 Archives

Sun Feb 19 15:48:34 EST 2012

Roger Waters - The Wall (Live)

Earlier this week, I saw Roger Waters performing "The Wall" live, something I never thought I'd be able to see. Pink Floyd's "The Wall Tour" ran between 1980 and 1981, and I'd resigned myself to seeing occasional bits of footage on classic album shows and such. I had high hopes going into the concert hall, and wasn't disappointed.

The concert was the most intense out of any show I've seen. Waters has moved beyond his frustrations with the audience that spawned the original album, and the show emphasised its anti-corporate/anti-government message to compensate. Some of this was well done, but some of it felt arbitrary. In "Goodbye Blue Sky", Gerald Scarfe's original animation is replaced by a computer-generated version, with the flying white crosses replaced by planes dropping corporate and religious logos from their bomb bays. It could've been a powerful image, but the symbols weren't well chosen. The religious symbols didn't fit the anti-corporate message, and the corporate logos were those of Shell, McDonald's and Mercedes-Benz. More consumer brands would've worked better, given how much advertising everyone is exposed to.

The presentation of the concert in general has been updated to match the message. The puppets made a return, upgraded with LED-arrays for the eyes. The wall itself is used as a canvas for some very impressive projections. At one point, each brick showed the face of a dead soldier. At another, it was sheep with iPod earphones jammed in their ears. The wall would appear to open up, disgorge a strange, gollum-like creature from its depths and slam shut. For some reason, a new version of the "crossed hammers" logo was used here and there, and I can't figure out why. Moving videos of US servicemen surprising their children with their unexpected return gave extra weight to "Bring the Boys Back Home". My seat was on the second row from the back, so I couldn't see all of the detail. Such a shame.

Waters' voice has lost some of its range but none of its passion. He stops the show just before "Mother" to point out that he'll be playing alongside a recording of "that fucked up old Roger Waters from so long ago". He then pulls off the double-tracked piece with each track over 30 years apart, a pretty impressive feat.

Throughout the first half of the show, the wall is built up, one brick at a time. Even though I knew what was coming, it was still quite confronting to see the light cut out from the final hole in the wall, sealing the performers away from the audience. The performances of "Hey You" and "Comfortably Numb" were beautiful, with "Hey You" coming from behind this stark white wall which exploded into colour during the guitar solo of "Comfortably Numb".

Unlike most other concerts, there was very little audience interation. No call-and-response, no audience sining, nothing like that. That's fine by me, because interaction would not have made sense. Although the personal alienation theme of the original album was muted, it was still there and would've clashed with any audience participation. When "In the flesh!" came around, Waters came on stage with a prop tommy gun and pretended to open fire after the "if I had my way, I'd have all of you shot!" lyric. The crowd cheers, but that's the point in the film where Pink turns into the Dictator, an unfeeling puppet-master playing the crowd for his own ends. I wonder how many in the audience realised that.

For an encore, they played three verses of "Waltzing Matilda". I'm not sure else would've fit. To play any Pink Floyd song would not have sat well next to The Wall, which stands alone as a complete concept.

I kept the ticket as a memento, but being the absent-minded twit I am I put it through the wash.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: miscellaneous

Sun Feb 19 14:28:14 EST 2012

Walden

I've finished another audiobook: Henry David Thoreau's Walden. It's one of the longest audiobooks I've been through so far. The reader is quite good, and sounds a bit like the guy who does the tech quotes in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. So the reading itself is quite pleasant to listen to. What about the content?

Walden consists of Thoreau's thoughts that came from a two-year experiment in living simply. He built himself a hut in the wilderness and lived in it in an attempt to "suck the marrow out of life". To me, the first 3 chapters were the most interesting: those on "Economy", "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" and "Reading". The others seemed to focus on the minutae of life in Walden, as opposed to Thoreau's thoughts concerning the same. This would've been less of a problem if I was reading with my eyes as opposed to my ears; for I would then be able to skim over these parts.

In the chapter on "Reading", Thoreau laments that most people read little more than the intellectual equivalent of fast food. To read and truly digest a book needs time and dedication, and I don't think that's possible with an audiobook; to do so would be like trying to drink a steak. (The irony of this thought coming from an audiobook is not lost on me.) This is a fundamental problem with trying to listen to any moderately serious work, because the reading speed will never be right. The mind wanders if the reading is too slow, but if the reading is too fast and it's easy to miss things and impossible to properly chew an idea.

Most interesting to me was the chapter on "Economy" and how it relates to my experience living on Windeward Bound. With so litte stowage space on board (and even less when we're on voyage), I was forced to consider very carefully what things I would take to Hobart. Although that chapter doesn't make me want to live in a cabin in the woods, it does make me want to carefully reconsider my possessions. Thoreau's complants about impractical, quickly-worn-out clothes and people blindly following fashion are still relevant today.

Walden makes me want to return to Canberra and reconsider everything I own, and for that I consider it time well spent.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: librivox

Sat Feb 11 07:26:05 EST 2012

Repairing the Radar

We recently pulled down the ship's radar to send it to the friendly neighbourhood techmagician. If you want to see some cool photos of the inside of the radar (you should), Stephanie's got you covered.

One of the handy things about hoisting and lowering stuff on a tall ship is that there are plenty of halyards and such that you can borrow for a day or two. To get the radar down, we yoinked the nock staysail halyard and the ship's rubbish net. At sea, our rubbish bags get tied down under the jibbom using this net. Its vaguely triangular shape made it difficult to get the radar to sit straight, but we managed.

Working on the mainmast is much more challenging than the foremast: there's nowhere near as much space but it's also much more open. There were three of us crammed onto the small crosstrees as we carefully removed the radar cover, lowered it down, disconnected its signal cables, hoisted the radar cover, secured it, unbolted the radar, got it into the net and lowered it to the deck.

To replace the radar, we worked a little smarter. We keep a stash of small pieces of line for teaching sail trainees the various knots used on board. They find plenty of use elsewhere, such as lashing down furniture at sea. This new net let us get the radar onto its bracket without removing the halyard, which made the procedure much less nerve-wracking.

Radar, ready to hoist

Speaking of netting, I've finished my big ropework project. Can you guess what it is? (Photo credit: Stephanie Katz.)

Netting

Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: windeward_bound

Wed Feb 8 15:53:17 EST 2012

Darwin's Armada

Darwin's Voyage. Requires railroad. Costs 400 shields. Gives two free techs on completion. That's the Civ 2 perspective, anyway. The high-school science version isn't much better: Darwin rocks around the Galapagos for a while, looks at birds and comes back with the theory of evolution. They never mention that he spent most of the voyage seasick.

Darwin's Armada is the book that I have most recently finished. I love books about scientists. The disputes between researchers and the personal sacrifices made (especially when it comes to controversial ideas) make for fascinating reading. This particular book looks at the origins of the theory of evolution by natural selection in terms of four voyages by four different naturalists: Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Joseph Hooker and Andrew Wallace. The nautical flavouring extends to the description of ideas and places ashore and is overdone in parts. Darwin and his fellow researchers are often referred to as "Admirals" and "Captains", and the language of battle is heavily used when describing the various debates and discussions.

Even so, the book is still pretty good. It deals more with the adventures at sea and on land than Darwin's theory. And what adventures they are! The voyages and expeditions include India, the Amazon, Antarctica, Australia and (obviously) the Galapagos. Along the way, the naturalists dance on pack ice, examine parasites found in their ships' tow nets and travel on a ship whose clock is a coconut husk.

I know I've praised just about every book I've written about in this category, but that's because I've genuinely enjoyed all of them. This might not appeal quite so much to the less nautically-inclined, but it would probably still be a very interesting read.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: readings

Wed Feb 8 14:52:18 EST 2012

Evolution of a nickname

I'm not usually one to get a nickname. I'd get the odd "Jacko" occasionally, but that was about it. For some reason, that's changed on the ship. As an excuse to learn the DOT language, here is a summary of my various nicknames:

It started with "Jack", unsurprisingly. After we watched far too much Hornblower, that turned into "Mr. Kelly". The common instinct to abbreviate turned that into "Kelly". Working as an assistant watch leader, I had to remember a lot of things for my watch leader and do occasional mental calculations. The result? I was called "iJack" for a short time. At some point, the use of the "-dog" suffix entered the crew's vocabulary. In addition to the term "mad-dog", it turned "Kelly" into "Keldog".

Messing with the sounds of "Keldog" resulted in "Kelhog", "Helldog" and Kellog" (the fo'c'sle, where I was bunked at the time, was briefly known as the cereal box as a result). Mixing "Keldog" and "iJack" created "Kelbot", and combining "Kelhog" and "Helldog" spawned "Hellhog". Some time after Christmas, "Kellog" became "Eggnog".

Confused? Here's a chart:

Nickname Graph

The .dot file for this was trivial:

digraph {
  Jack -> "Mr. Kelly";
  Jack -> iJack;
  "Mr. Kelly" -> Kelly;
  Kelly -> Keldog;
  Keldog -> { Kelhog; Helldog; Kellog; Kelbot };
  Kelhog -> Hellhog;
  Helldog -> Hellhog;
  Kellog -> Eggnog;
  iJack -> Kelbot;
}

Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: windeward_bound

Wed Feb 1 22:23:29 EST 2012

Another Crewmate, Another Blogger

Recently, we had another new person join the crew. She's running a blog of her own, and is a pretty good photographer and writer. This post about the crew is probably a good place to start, for those interested.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: windeward_bound

Wed Feb 1 08:18:09 EST 2012

On DRM and Charts

A couple of nights back we had some pretty heavy rainfall and a fair amount of water leaked into the chartroom. The water got into the power supply for the chart computer, shorting it out. Fortunately, that appears to be all it did to the computer. Unfortunately, the water also got into this:

Endeavour(R) Security Dongle

That label says "Endeavour(R) Security Dongle". I'm not a fan of DRM ( Digital Restrictions Management) at the best of times, but this is ridiculous. If the water has wrecked the dongle, then we will have lost access to our electronic charts. (We still carry and use paper charts, of course, and do all the chartwork on them in parallel.) Making the electronic charts depend on a non-waterproof dongle is a textbook Bad Idea.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: windeward_bound